PILTON, England (AP) — Brittney Denise Parks, better known as the Sudan Archives, is an avant-garde violinist and singer-songwriter who describes her style as “fiddle soft punk.”
Last week, she made her Glastonbury Festival debut in the UK. After a shaky start, the packed crowd danced in the afternoon sun as they rapped and fiddled in a corset of red leather belts and buckles, cowboy boots, a bow of violin. strapped to his back like Robin Hood.
“At first my mic wasn’t working, so the crowd was like, we can’t hear you and I was like, Really? They’re like, No! So once we figured that out, then it was amazing!” she told The Associated Press backstage.
Now based in Los Angeles, Sudan Archives taught herself the violin as a child in Ohio. She made waves with her exploration of non-Western string traditions, unconventional pop and R&B melodies as well as rap inspired by her collaborator and boyfriend, Nocando.
Her breakthrough second album “Natural Brown Prom Queen”, recorded in the couple’s home studio during the pandemic, was released in 2022. The track “Home Maker” went on to make Barack Obama’s favorite music playlist of 2022.
The following interview has been condensed for brevity and clarity.
AP: What was your starting point with the violin?
Sudan Archives: I didn’t start classical, but I was just really into violin music. So I started trying to learn violin music. And there was an after-school program called Fiddle Club, so we learned a lot of Irish music and stuff, but when I moved to another school there was no orchestra or after-school program. So I just taught myself more in church how to play by ear.
And then since I didn’t really have any training, I didn’t really have the training and the skills to go to university and go to school like that. But I basically started integrating electronic music into the violin. And I remember when they started making electric violins, I had bought my first electric violin and plugged in some guitar pedals. And I started making weird sounds and making music.
AP: The violin has a particular image, is that something you were aware of?
Sudan Archives: Yes, I was. I think everywhere there is a very Western vision of the violin. But there are so many other cultures that play the violin. But for some reason, when you think of the violin, you might think of a classical orchestra. But I was just in Istanbul, and I just bought one of Turkey’s first traditional violins. And when I was in Ghana, I bought a Hausa fiddle. So basically I feel like my goal is to show the black roots of the violin.
AP: What made you want to mix violin with rap?
Sudan Archives: I think it works because it hasn’t been done a lot and I really want to be unique. So I started dating my boyfriend and he’s a really good rapper. So I feel like when you’re with rappers, something clicked and I was like, ‘Wait a minute, maybe I should play the violin and rap too.’
AP: And what did people in the rap scene do with that and you?
Sudan Archives: I think they like it. I feel like I think of myself as a soft punk. Like it wasn’t punk. It’s not crazy. I won’t break my violin, but I could scream and rap. It’s like a soft punk on the violin.
AP: You have dates in Japan and Australia coming up. Do you like travel?
Sudan Archives: I like it. I don’t know why because sometimes I get bored and I just feel like when you travel a lot you never get bored.
AP: Especially if you get to spend time somewhere?
Sudan Archives: Yes. I make sure I have days off in really cool places. So I had three days off in Istanbul and really wanted to stay there because they have a lot of string instruments. So when I have a day off in Japan, I go get a string instrument there.
AP: How many violins did you buy altogether?
Sudan Archives: I probably have six.
AP: And do you use all of them when playing?
Sudan Archives: I don’t have enough money to say “I have a violin technician. They all carry my violins” and I can only bring one or maybe two if a friend comes and then I take them on the plane.
AP: But one day, one day you will have the entourage.
Sudan Archives: One day I will have five violins on stage with different effects.